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Oral History Interview with Edwin Edmonds by William Chafe


Date: circa 1975

Interviewee: Edwin R. Edmonds

Biographical abstract: Edwin Edmonds (?-2007) was a professor at Bennett College and president of the Greensboro NAACP during the late fifties. He served at pastor of Dixwell Avenue Congregation Church in New Haven, North Carolina, from 1956 to 1994.

Interviewer: William Henry Chafe

Description:

This oral history interview conducted by William Chafe circa 1975 with Edwin Edmonds primarily documents Edmonds’ civil rights activities while at Bennett College and as president of the Greensboro NAACP. He recalls Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Bennett College; Willa Player; blacklisting of the NAACP members and getting fired himself; NAACP leadership; NAACP Youth Fellowship; and being protected from the Ku Klux Klan.

Edmonds also provides his opinions of Dr. John Tarpley, Dr. William Hampton, and Ben Smith; his opinion of several white academicians and so-called allies; approaching the school board; getting a new gym for Dudley High School; increased police presence at black gatherings; the position of several black and white clergy; and his prior involvement in civil rights activities.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: William Henry Chafe Oral History Collection

Repository: Duke University

Item#: 4.23.638

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral History Interview with Edwin Edmonds by William Chafe

William Chafe:

Dr. Edmonds, when did you come to Greensboro?

Edwin Edmonds:

In 1956—September 1956.

WC:

And you came there as both a professor at Bennett [College]—did you have a church there as well?

EE:

No, I came purely as a professor at Bennett.

WC:

Where did you come from?

EE:

Langston University in Langston, North Carolina [sic—Oklahoma].

WC:

So you had taught the same place as Hobart Jarrett had taught?

EE:

Well, Hobart is from Tulsa. I met Hobart at Bennett.

WC:

You left Greensboro in what year?

EE:

[Nineteen] fifty-nine.

WC:

Tell me what your impressions were of Bennett when you came into it. Was it a place which you would characterize as having a great number of activists?

EE:

Not at the time I came. Bennett was in transition, as I supposed most blacks—following the successes of the Montgomery [Bus Boycott] movement, this became very contagious, and it excited students so that Bennett began to change. A fermentation was growing from the students to the faculty to the administration. And to the credit of the administration, it was responsive much to the amazement of many of us. But there was a significant change.

I'll tell you, the most important thing I recall was when we tried to present Martin Luther King the first time in Greensboro. We couldn't get a hall and [Bennett president] Dr. [Willa] Player, we approached her as a kind of last resort, and she very graciously said, “Of course he should speak here.” And we used Bennett's [Pfeiffer] Chapel and a couple of the auditoriums on campus where we piped in the speech. We had that kind of a crowd.

WC:

How would you describe Willa Player?

EE:

I think she was an administrator in the—with the kind of capital A, in the sense that she went according to rules and regulations—were carried to perfection but no variation on the theme. No innovation if she could avoid it. A kind of—and I mean this—in a kind way, a functionary.

WC:

So that her support of you was more a response than initiator.

EE:

Oh, yes, always response. But I'm happy to say that it was very, very, supportive after the die was cast and the students made very clear that commitment. She cooperated and beautifully.

WC:

Would those students and yourself and other people who were becoming more and more involved in the protest movement in Greensboro, would that have taken place primarily on the campus or in conjunction with community groups?

EE:

No, the campus was a kind of base where we launched from. You see, there was a field service that many students got credit for. I'm not sure of the title of it. I directed that, where the students would be involved in community work and get so many credits for it. And this put us in touch with schools and social organizations and civic groups and the like, and gave a kind of feedback. Incidentally there is a [unclear]; there are two students here—former students—one who was president of the student body at that time; name is now Grace Caldwell. She is married to a minister here. And the other is Barbara Winters, whose name was Barbara Whitfield, who did the—who was the editor of the Bennett paper during the period right after the fifties, say '60, perhaps about '64.

WC:

And they are both in New Haven?

EE:

They are both in New Haven.

WC:

Barbara Whitfield?

EE:

Barbara Whitfield Winters.

WC:

Winters, okay.

EE:

I can get you their addresses.

WC:

Great. Did you have a sense when you came to Greensboro of this being a community on the move or not on the move?

EE:

No, I had the sense of Greensboro, as was North Carolina, enjoying the kind of liberal reputation but in a southern framework. You found the Human Relations Council, but the only place it could meet was at the YWCA [Young Women's Christian Association]. I also found a kind of reaction from the state, our educational system, where there was great fear on the part of administrators to be involved in interracial matters.

This was the period when the [White] Citizens' Council was most active. The Ku Klux Klan operated but in kind of disrepute, lower class. Upper middle class was the Citizens' Council, much more respectable, much less users of violence, but tremendously influential in prevention. [laughter]

As a consequence, it was a place where you felt something could be done, because of the unusual collection of black talent. Schools were producing very interesting people, both in academia and in community work of various sorts, but who were available as resources, so that there was potentially here something very important and a desire. The NAACP was quite active, had some good people on its board, people feeling some social compassion and some social responsibility and with a general climate of what can we do to change things, to improve, to extricate ourselves from what is so debilitating in this segregated system?

WC:

Who were some of those people that you would think of immediately as being the most important people in the NAACP in terms of this drive?

EE:

I'd say Dr. [George] Simkins, Mrs. Frank Bailey at Bennett, Ezell Blair—let's see. The name escapes me now.

WC:

Would John Leary have been one of those people?

EE:

No, he was institution.

WC:

When you say institution—

EE:

He was establishment. He was a principal of a junior high school as I recall—very cooperative but always without disability, and we had a lot of people like that. I never shall forget, after I had left, the new president—who is president now at [North Carolina A&T [State University]—I apologized to him when he was just on faculty about some NAACP memberships. It was very dangerous to be a member of the NAACP. It was blacklisted. And I went to his home with some envelopes and for a seal, and he told me at the time he would get them sold.

And I said, “Now, we don't want you to take any risks on your job.”

And he said, “I would be less than a man if I didn't do this,” and went on and did it. And that was the kind of encouragement. He couldn't come out publicly.

WC:

You're talking about Leary now? Dr. Miller?

EE:

No, that's not his name, what's the president of A&T now?

WC:

Oh, at A&T. I'm sorry.

EE:

I can't call his name now. Whoever it is, he took some—

WC:

Dr. [Lewis] Dowdy.

EE:

That's right. He took some serious risks as a faculty person. Most faculty people didn't want to be identified. That was the interesting [unclear] kind of support that was available from the outside. You couldn't see it, but there was a lot of ways of helping that never registered but were tremendously important. Now there was a Mr. Gray, I think his name was, [unclear] he was a real spearhead with the Insurance Company—[N. L.] Gregg?

WC:

Gregg.

EE:

Yes, a very committed man.

WC:

How about someone like Dr. [John] Tarpley [Negro school supervisor]?

EE:

Tarpley was of the old school. Tarpley used us when it was to his advantage but would never stalwart.

WC:

So you would not consider him as one of the [unclear] supporters?

EE:

No, sir. We worked in spite of Tarpley.

WC:

How about Dr. [William] Hampton?

EE:

Hampton was the worst of all. Our greatest with Hampton was when he was on the board of education. We approached him for our information and for our speaking-out position on the board, and he very clearly told us that he represented all the people, white and black, and therefore he could not evidence any particular support for us.

WC:

So he was not representing your point of view you did not feel?

EE:

Hampton not only did not represent our point of view, Hampton was white in black skin. That's how I feel about it. He was an [unclear]. He was an impediment to our work. Because you see, let me make this clear, nothing is worse in a situation where there is not the will to do than a person who is supposedly identified with you speaking the opposite position. It could be always used as a point of reference, to say, “Look, you know that is not the black point of view, because Dr. Hampton is black.” He did us more harm than good.

WC:

I want to tell you that I have written one paper so far out of my research, and on the basis of what you have said, I think that you will find that it agrees with your analysis because—

EE:

Is that right?

WC:

—in both cases, Dr. Tarpley and Dr. Hampton, the evidence I have from the white school board members at the time is that precisely. They used Hampton and Tarpley precisely in that sense.

EE:

They did exactly.

WC:

And that it was exactly.

EE:

Have you run into a Ralph Johns?

WC:

I have not run into him. I know about him. He's not there anymore, I don't think.

EE:

I would certainly like to know where he is. He was one of the main sparkplugs, took a lot of courage to do what he did. And he really was the one the credit should go for organizing those kids in the sit-ins because he had talked it for two years, and we kept saying, “Yeah, we are going to get to it,” you know. And we had Youth Fellowship [sic, Council?] going. But he was the one who persuaded those guys to go on down there.

WC:

Were was the Youth Fellowship going?

EE:

The NAACP Youth Fellowship.

WC:

I see.

EE:

Ezell [Blair Jr.—now Jibreel Khazan] and them came out of the Youth.

WC:

Had that been in existence when you came, or did you help start that?

EE:

I think I started it. It might have been intermittent. I know we got another one going. I brought four girls with me—three of them were aids that would build youth fellowships, one daughter—and that helped us to get it going. You know girls always attract. [laughter]

WC:

Where would this meet?

EE:

It met at churches, and primarily churches. Now which ones—

WC:

Shiloh [Baptist Church]?

EE:

No. [Reverend Julius] Douglass' church, which would be [St. James] Presbyterian. And later at on Lee Street, there's a Methodist Church [Union Memorial United Methodist Church?]—I don't remember the name of it—near a housing project. And then we met in the schools.

WC:

At Bennett or A&T?

EE:

A&T was not very friendly. The pressure was being brought from the legislature, through the board of [unclear], to all your state schools, and A&T—I was fired at A&T. That's an interesting story. I had a part-time job at A&T as the director of the Wesley Foundation for the Methodist Church. After I got active and became president of NAACP and so on, and things began to warm, Dr. [Ferdinand] Bluford—no, it was Gibbs, Dr. [Warmouth] Gibbs, had me fired. I came to a board meeting of Wesley Foundation and they told me that my services were no longer needed.

And we had just built a new house and I had just moved in, as a matter of fact, and this was the money I was going to make the mortgage [with], and it was a shocking thing. And as a consequence I had to go to—I had to take a job, a part-time teaching arrangement down at Barber-Scotia [College]. And I'm legally blind, so my wife had to drive me back and forth twice a week and we had to leave the kids at home by themselves. So we just decided that the pressure was too great after that, after the first semester of '58-'59. And she couldn't get a job. The Citizens' Council systematically kept my wife from working.

WC:

What was she, was she teacher or—?

EE:

She was a teacher, trained as a teacher, and tried in other kinds of things, investigator—and I've forgotten the number of places where she went—health department and so on. And they would give her the job and then mysteriously, you know, she was later told, “Well, I'm sorry. We had to have a change, you know, something came up.” She just couldn't get work.

WC:

Who were some of the people in the white community that you felt were allies?

EE:

I may have problems with their names. The husband and wife who was—the husband was a contractor. He built a motel out on—

WC:

John and Betsy Taylor.

EE:

Betsy Taylor and John, yeah. They were stalwart. Adrian Solomon[?]—and let me just get this for the record, because if I ever see him I still think he is a stinker. Is Berger—do you know Berger? He's a great writer, a Christian writer. Oh, yeah, you got to know him. He left Woman's College [now The University of North Carolina in Greensboro] and came to Hartford Seminary, and he's a great authority on social change.

WC:

Peter Berger?

EE:

Peter Berger.

WC:

Peter Berger. Was he in Greensboro?

EE:

Peter was one of the worst cowards I have ever known. Peter was possessed. My counterpart at Woman's College—and he wouldn't—he didn't have—when we went to visit Peter, we had to sneak in. [laughter] In his—on the campus, we could not get him to take a stand on anything, and the most we got was an agreement that we would have an exchange of our kids in sociology class. They did sit-in, but that caused controversy and that had to be stopped. Peter would gladly come out to visit us. He would come to my house, he would come to the class, but Peter was a fraud, and I have no problem with you telling him. [laughter] I just lost respect for a man [who] in times of crisis had no guts, and then to come out and be a great authority on this kind of thing.

WC:

How about [school superintendent] Ben Smith? Did you have—?

EE:

I had great respect for Ben Smith, we did not agree and obviously so. His position was quite different, but he was a man of integrity.

WC:

Now, tell me a little bit about that disagreement, if you would?

EE:

Well, I led the movement to try to get the decent gym for Mr. Tarpley [at Dudley High School]. The kids had a gym where the foul line, end lines, were something like two feet, and here spaced along there were water fountains. The showers were broken down and they were inadequate to start with. The whole thing was a band box, and we demanded that blacks be permitted to use the gym across town. I have forgotten now which school that was.

WC:

Grimsely Senior High [then Greensboro Senior High School].

EE:

And we fought this with the board of education, and we went down there with committees and continued. He disagreed with all of this. He disagreed with the integration at first. He just couldn't see it. The first school that was integrated was on Benbow Road.

WC:

Gillespie [Park School].

EE:

Gillespie. And he was very much opposed. He wanted to wait. It was a pressure kind of thing. I think we respected each other, as a matter of fact. I had no problems dealing with the man who had integrity and some convictions and who has some guts, and Ben Smith had all of these. When he came to the position finally to recognize the worthwhile-ness of it, he became convinced. He completely reversed himself. Now that's a measure of a man. He can say, “I'm wrong.” I admired him very much.

WC:

How about who were the people in the white community who you identified as your enemy?

EE:

We never knew the city manager, for example. We never saw that dude one time.

WC:

That was [General James] Townsend.

EE:

I don't know. I couldn't tell you today. The paper was—one of the things you find about whites who are capitalized on for this kind of circumstances, we had a guy there on the newspaper—and I don't remember his name—he was one of the worst, and he wrote on the side for a newspaper. He was the [unclear], and he wrote some pretty biased stuff. We had some retractions in Newsweek—or was it Time magazine? Maybe it was the [New York] Times. He was a kind of auxiliary reporter. And the article I remember most vividly was too fast, too deep. We were working on swimming pools. Now whoever wrote that was one of our worst enemies because he appeared as a liberal, but he wrote some pretty horrendous articles in the paper.

WC:

Was that Joe Knox?

EE:

I wouldn't remember. There's a good guy there now that we worked with very well in the United Church of Christ. He's the publisher of the paper, a little short fellow.

WC:

Well, Bill Snider and Ed[win] Yoder [Jr.] are the editors.

EE:

I think this guy must be the [unclear] or maybe he's the general editor—about fifty-some years old, maybe sixty-some.

WC:

It wouldn't be Snider, I don't think.

EE:

I don't know. Is he short?

WC:

Fairly, but he wrote a lot of those Pearsall Plan editorials.

EE:

No, Snider was one of the guys we didn't deal with. I remember that name now.

WC:

He took all sides of the issues—

EE:

But it always—no, I can't think of this man's name, but I worked with him in the United Church of Christ policies. He's a very vocal and comes in right all the time. But he was with the paper.

WC:

Did you have any kind of sense of the—

EE:

Let me just make one other comment. We had absolutely no support from any of the clergy in Greensboro, white, absolutely none.

WC:

Even Charlie Bowles?

EE:

I don't even remember the name.

WC:

West Market Street [Methodist Church].

EE:

I went to one meeting there, one service there. All of them talked lofty ideas, but you never got them identified with you, and that ought to be registered. Most of them are prisoners. Their congregations say “Well, that's too bad.”

WC:

How about the black clergy?

EE:

The black clergy, most were pretty cooperative. Feet dragging occasionally and frightened, but in pressure the black public was so aroused on all of this issue that they had to go along. And we had no problem with having NAACP meetings around the various churches. That was indicative—

WC:

How many people would you have at an average meeting?

EE:

It depended on what the issue was. I supposed black folk are no different from folks. They are crisis-oriented, and when you had an issue you could pack a place. I remember the AME Church off of Market Street a very short distance. I can't think of the man's name that was there. The last I heard he was down in Durham. But we packed his church several times. We packed a church over—and we had to force this man [unclear]. There was [Trinity] AME Zion Church, [Gilmer?] Street, Washington Street going on toward town, a big old stone [unclear]. And I'm testing fifteen years here. But anyway we had to bring some pressure on him through some of his officers. And that was the interesting thing, we could always get officers from most of these churches who if the minister didn't want to lend help—but you were asking me about other whites, I just don't remember.

WC:

Did you have much sense of people like—people who would be at Burlington Industries, those type of people?

EE:

No, they stayed back. We got some messages occasionally of encouragement but very [unclear] said. You know, “We are with you. Keep going,” and so on, but never showing any or even identifying, so that I just don't remember. Oh, you had Dr. Carfield[?], the teachers at Bennett that were white that you could count on, things like that. I just don't remember any others. Oh, yes I do. The guy that was with the [American] Friends Service Committee—he ought to be, if he is still living. He was a friend of Anne Queen.

WC:

Bell, Tartt Bell?

EE:

It could have been.

WC:

[Andrew?] Gottschall?

EE:

No.

WC:

No, not Gottschall.

EE:

At Guilford College.

WC:

Okay, I'll—

EE:

There's some guy that was—he represented—he was the executive for the Friends Service Committee [Harry Boyte?] and he took some real [unclear] from time to time but he stood pretty straight and made available resources and so on. I remember another interesting thing. We tried to have with Peter Berger and some other guys who called themselves liberal, lunch. We persuaded the YMCA to let us—the YMCA now—to let us bag lunches. We couldn't bring—you couldn't have lunch together, but you could each individually bring your bag. We met for about six months, once a month, but then the pressure got on and they had to do something.

WC:

When was that, '57?

EE:

It was—this must have been '57.

WC:

Yes. How about someone like Warren Ashby? Did you know Warren Ashby at all?

EE:

The name Warren Ashby—is a teacher somewhere?

WC:

He teaches English at Woman's College.

EE:

Yes, Warren had a great reputation. We had some questions about Warren, and it's not really worth quoting because I don't remember that well. The same thing that we had about the other guy who taught history out there who wrote this black thing. We really—

WC:

[Dr. Richard] Bardolph.

EE:

Bardolph we think capitalized on us.

WC:

Yes, I have talked to Bardolph once or twice and I think it's true. I have heard it said that you were largely responsible for rejuvenating, revitalizing, putting a whole lot of energy in the NAACP?

EE:

Well, it was a risky business. Nobody wanted to sit on that hot seat.

WC:

And you didn't mind?

EE:

And I didn't mind it. You know I've been in struggles all my life. I was out in Texas when the white primary thing. We were involved in that as Youth Fellowship of the NAACP and we—you know, you go through to vote when they dared you not to vote. So this was nothing new to me.

WC:

Tell me about how you came into—you came into Bennett in '56?

EE:

Right.

WC:

And you immediately became active in the NAA and other things?

EE:

Well, I was already a member of the NAACP. I just came to Greensboro and—

WC:

And became active.

EE:

I sorted out.

WC:

And very quickly you were elected president?

EE:

That's the reason I know, because nobody wanted to be president.

WC:

No one was president?

EE:

It wasn't any credit. You see, you backed into the presidency in those days. They would try to find somebody fool enough to do it, when I left that was one of my great concerns about leaving. I finally persuaded George Simkins to take it because it had to be somebody that they couldn't pressure too much. If you worked on a job, then they could get at you. Bennett was independent, so that made it—Simkins was a doctor—a dentist, you see, so he had an independent income. The only other kind of guy that could fit this kind of bill would have been a clergyman where they couldn't get at all of his members, because they were paying little bits to pieces, so we had to choose [unclear].

And I backed into it because I didn't mind it and I had had experience. See, I was with—in Boston, when we were students, we had the first FEPC [Fair Employment Practices Commission]. We helped to bring that in and when A. Philip Randolph threatened his first march. I was involved in that. I was with King when they organized SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] at that first meeting down in Montgomery [Alabama], so I was just a civil righter.

WC:

Did you scare people in Greensboro?

EE:

I think so.

WC:

You scared black people in Greensboro?

EE:

Yes, I think so.

WC:

How did you scare them?

EE:

Because, “You are too radical. We ought to go slower. You are confronting the establishment much too vigorously and this can bring fire down on our heads.”

WC:

Did you feel that you were being left out on a limb, that you weren't getting much support as you wanted from the black population?

EE:

No, I never felt that. I guess I couldn't have functioned if I hadn't had the support. I met a young man the other day—he's from Greensboro—out at Chicago at a meeting. His name is Banks, Jay Banks. Jay Banks; [James] Tonkins, the milkman; and Arthur [Foy?], a psychologist at the Jewish Hospital. I've forgotten now what it was called. Not the [L.] Richardson [Memorial Hospital], the other one.

WC:

Cone Hospital?

EE:

Yes. Those three guys were like my bodyguard. They stayed with me all the time. When we were getting most of our threats from the KKK and their rocks and this kind of stuff, we had—and this is one of the most beautiful stories—we had all night protection by volunteers who just drove around the block and took turns on shifts, two guys at a time. That was beautiful. My wife and four kids—but it was—we had neighbors that if, you know, that would come and stay with my wife sometimes when I was away. We had neighbors that would say, “We'll watch your house when they bring the crosses. They better not leave any more.” And you just felt that you had—and common people, you know, people from churches mainly who had kids, who were determined that their kids should have a better future. And our NAACP's board is an interesting thing to go back and look at. Simkins probably can give you all of this. But to look at the composition of it—ordinary folk, laborers, as well as professional people. It was a beautiful mix. No, I never felt abandoned or alone.

WC:

Is Jay Banks still in Greensboro?

EE:

Yes, he works for Western Electric.

WC:

How about Tonkins?

EE:

As far as I know he is still there. He was driving a milk truck. What he does now I don't know. And I don't know where Foy is. He may still be there. But it was these kinds of guys that really believed in what we were doing.

WC:

Tonkins was one of those who applied for transfer of his children, right?

EE:

Yes.

WC:

And you did too, didn't you?

EE:

No.

WC:

You have a daughter named Cheryl?

EE:

Maybe I did [apply]. I don't know. Incidentally you know where she is? She's a doctor here.

WC:

In New Haven?

EE:

Yes, she graduate from Yale [University] last year in medicine and she's doing her intern[ship] right here.

WC:

What's her—?

EE:

Cheryl Frances, her name now is. She goes by Dr. Edmonds. She's over at the hospital.

WC:

Great, that's terrific. I've got to come back to New Haven, obviously.

EE:

I had forgotten that [the application for transfer]. Yes, I guess we did.

WC:

I'm not sure if it was one of those that was rejected or denied, but I remember seeing her name on the list and I remember seeing the application.

EE:

That's right.

WC:

And Tonkins, too. Does that bring back any—do you remember ever having, like going before the school board or—?

EE:

Oh, yes. I remember that very vividly. We had a nice thing on that. You know we used to meet and have dry runs. We would divide up and have some people play the role of the school board and then they would shoot questions or take positions, and we would wrestle with them. And we worked all of this out very carefully, and it paid off. We were very successful with the school board, and I must say that this was at a time when the school boards weren't expected to behave the way the Greensboro school board did. So we must give some credit to them and to the, probably the leadership of Smith, that they were at least open. Because on that gym thing, they did make the gym available. And we had great concern about that, because, you know, we had taken kids out there and we wanted to be sure that they came back without due harassing or being harassed.

WC:

Let's talk about that for just one second, if we could, on the gym thing. I've been through the school board minutes, and it struck me that that was really a kind of departure, that the extent to which the community organized and made repeated appearances before the school board, that represented something which is new. I wonder if you could just talk to me a little bit about what went into that. Why that issue rather than, let's say, other issues?

EE:

Well, it was compared with other issues. However, we were fighting the golf course and we had a group on that, and the swimming pools, parks. At the same time we were trying to get a paper. For example—and incidentally you want some real sources of historical stuff, you go to the Carolina Times. Have you seen that?

WC:

Yes.

EE:

That's loaded with this period. We've tried to establish and did get a section in there to get an office in Greensboro so we would have a voice, but it never did fully materialize. And just as we were getting it, I left. But the school board thing, here was a very clear-cut issue two, three years removed from the Supreme Court decision, and we were stupid enough to believe that the Supreme Court meant what it said. And that all “deliberate speed” meant all deliberate speed, which is more speed than deliberate. [laughter] And so here was a pressure point.

And one of the things that the NAACP recognized very early was that when—one of the ways to move black folk is move them about their children. You see, you can't be conditioned to the years to get ahead, to achieve, to become somebody, to make something of your life and then have your kids denied. And school was a very sensitive thing, so we got all kinds of support here for people willing go down in confront the board and to confront even when at first there was an attempt to intimidate by the police, you know. They—just a show of force.

WC:

You mean at the school board meeting?

EE:

And everywhere else we tried to meet.

WC:

In other words, when you came down there, there were more police there than there would ordinarily be?

EE:

There were police there anticipating. And when you get a lot of black there is an assumption—which is not necessarily valid, but usually it's a case—when you get a lot of black folk together you can expect trouble, so you prepare for war in a time of peace.

WC:

Another interesting thing about that though, it seems to me, is that it was around an issue which was a black institution. In other words—

EE:

Well, we have two things—

WC:

A kind of combination, a new gym at Dudley [and] also the use of the senior high gym, so it was a kind of integration thing.

EE:

No, but you see the point of that was we weren't trying to integrate. We were carrying two fights at the same time. And one of the problems with one of the fights was that they hedged about—you remember the state legislature somewhere along there passed something about a district, or something about you had to go to school in a certain area or you had to have an [affidavit?] sworn. It was a whole lot of harassment. I just don't remember now. But what we were trying to do was to force a relaxation of this for integration in other kinds of schools. We weren't using the gym issue for that. The gym issue came up as a separate thing to build. This was to appease people in the black community who said, “If we had equal facilities, to hell with white folks.” So you keep them going by, and we couldn't appeal to them until we—“that they need a gym out there, of course, but we don't have any money.” Now the moment you use their facilities, the money is found. So it was a pressure-type fight.

WC:

And it was going two directions at the same time, but they were complimentary to each other?

EE:

Oh, yes, complimentary. Two aspects of the same whole—

[End of Interview]